While not providing any tangible information on any agreement that would give US beef access to China for the first time since 2003, Spicer confirmed that talks took place.
President Donald Trump met with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Largo estate in Florida last week.
At a press briefing with reporters on 10 April, White House spokesperson Spicer said both leaders discussed how to “hammer out” a plan for beef and other issues.
‘Flesh out’ a deal
China lifted import restrictions on US beef in September 2016, opening up an exciting trade route that American beef producers had not been able to access since 2003. However, negotiations held between several meat associations and China have hit a roadblock over technical issues . And the US is still unable to export beef to China.
Spicer said the US and China would now take 100 days to put together plans for expanded beef access, intellectual property and a few other issues.
“There are a lot of topics that got put on the table – we’re going to see how that works,” he told reporters. Spicer added both parties “are now going to continue to flesh out [a plan]”.
China is already the world’s largest pork importer and its growing middle class has fuelled demand for more expensive animal protein, such as beef. Its top suppliers of beef, according to World Trade Stats, are Brazil, Uruguay and Australia. From these three countries, China imported over 400,000 tonnes of frozen beef over the 12 months to February 2017.
As the US is one of the world’s top beef exporters, any deal with China would represent a new opportunity for food traders, which have been hit hard by the US decision to exit the Trans-Pacific Partnership . Talks are also underway to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), so expanded market access to China would benefit US meatpackers.